Charlie Le Grand is a man who lives up to his name. He stands in Plaza of the Americas, wearing a black and blue “To Write Love on Her Arms” shirt and socks with the “The Great Wave off Kanagawa,” the famous Japanese painting, printed on them.
A slight breeze blows occasionally through Plaza, where the 90 degree heat and 53 percent humidity hang in the air. Le Grand mingles with students, friends and strangers alike, joking and making easy banter.
But he is here for one specific purpose. He hopes to break a world record: the amount of hugs given in a single minute. Currently, the record stands at 79. His goal? 90.
He is a man with a plan. Students will line up in two parallel lines. Le Grand will oscillate back and forth between students, giving quick, full-arm hugs. Students must have their arms at their sides and run off as soon as the hug is over. “If I can make someone’s day with something easy like this, then why not? Hugs are fun to give.”
Le Grand, a 19-year-old applied physiology and kinesiology major and UF Honors student from Longwood, Florida, was inspired by a video posted to Facebook of current record-holder Krishna Kumar of India. The video shows Kumar breaking the then-previous record by 2 hugs.
“Well, I could do that!” Le Grand thought after watching.
Honors and non-Honors students alike roam about, waiting for the event to start. Students are standing or sitting, casually chatting. “Do we get enrichment points for this?” someone jokes.
Human hugs were not the only ones given that day. Cheerio, a dog belonging to a member from Alpha Epsilon Delta, a pre-health honor society tabling nearby, made its way over to the group.
“The event is cancelled, let’s all go pet the dog instead!” Le Grand jokes. Cheerio makes his rounds and then wanders back.
Joey McGinn is a close friend of Le Grand’s – he is attending the event to support him. He and Le Grande were Honors Orientation Leaders together.“We’re good buds.”
McGinn, a 19-year-old history major and Gainesville native, says he loves community events like these that promote peace, love, understanding and cooperation.McGinn says this is exactly the kind of thing Le Grand would plan on doing.
“Charlie loves to be there for people. That’s the kind of person he is. If anyone were to walk up to you and give you a hug, that would be him. Any chance to hug Charlie, I’ll take it.”
As it nears time for the event to start, Le Grand worries a little about low turnout. He seizes his chance to rectify that. Approaching a Cicerones tour group near Leigh Hall, Le Grand asks if they could participate in his record-breaking attempt. Unfortunately, they cannot; they are on a tight schedule.
By 3:30, things are looking a little less promising for Le Grand. By headcount, only 53 people are ready to receive a record-breaking hug. Someone suggests “grabbing” people from Library West.
Le Grand does not let this problem deter him. By 3:32 he has everyone lined up, and starts explaining the rules. They are the same as before – arms at sides, run off as soon as the hug is done – with one exception: students will now loop back around to the end of the line and go again. Le Grand hopes the amount of hugs, not the amount of people, are what will be accepted by Guinness World Records.
The two lines are formed. A friend counts down, and Le Grand is off. One person videotapes, another times it. He pivots from person to person, focusing on his goal: get to 90 hugs.
The time is up. Cheering is all around. Le Grand and his friends play back the video, counting the number of hugs: 74. Five away from tying, 16 away from his goal. But Le Grand refuses to give up easily.
He gets everyone together a second time, and he is off again. This time his speed is unmatched, unparalleled to his prior attempt. His arms are jutting in and out so quickly to grasp each student that it is difficult to see them – his arms are no longer something solid, but instead a constant, fluid motion.
Again, the time is up. Everyone cheers. Le Grand is breathing and sweating hard, but he and his friends diligently watch the video, counting.
Le Grand does not reach the goal of 90. He surpasses it, with 100 hugs in a minute. He hopes that Guinness will approve his record. The fact that people received multiple hugs may cause the organization to not approve it.
But the real treat of the day was getting to connect with so many people.
“I’m smiling and my cheeks are hurting; this is a great day.” Le Grand said. “If I am remembered for nothing else at this school, then I am happy with that.”
Photography by Livia Ledbetter